The Malta Independent 21 April 2019, Sunday

Europe under the migrant influx

Tuesday, 20 October 2015, 08:08 Last update: about 5 years ago

It would seem that for us Maltese, at any rate, the migrants crisis is over, gone, forgotten, put on the back burner.

It is, of course, nothing of the sort.

Every day, something like 7,000 new migrants arrive on the Greek island of Kos. For them, crossing the not very wide stretch of sea that separates the island from the Turkish mainland  is nothing but traumatic. In fact, many boats overturn and many lives are lost, children as well as adults.

Reaching Kos, however, is only the beginning, not the end, although one often sees tears and emotions as they realise they are out of Syria and the reach of Syria (meaning Turkey).

Ahead of them, the migrants face weeks of walking, of hardship, of anxiety as they trudge upwards through the Balkans then crossing the problematic borders with Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria before finally arriving in Germany, the land to which they aspire to get.

No one knows how many people will decide to move out from Syria given the state of complete chaos in that country. Germany has under-rated the number of migrants who would want to go to Germany. What was said would be some 800,000 migrants has now been updated to a million or more migrants.

This unexpected burden has hit Germany hard even though Germany as the biggest and richest country in Europe has a strong economy. On the one hand, with an ageing population, Germany needs new entrants in the workforce. This needs some qualifications: Germany has a world-class manufacturing sector but as the Volkswagen case has shown, were it not for what was done with the cars, in many cases they could become uncompetitive.

One must also say that, as against the sub-Saharan migrants that find their way here, the migrants from Syria are better educated and some even have university backgrounds.

There can thus be no doubt that, if the migration and settling-in processes are carried out as should be, these migrants can become a new wave of workers in the German powerhouse, as so many of their migrant predecessors have been, from Turks to East Germans.

But the sudden and unexpected influx of so many persons from an alien culture and civilisation has caused a great shockwave in the German people and there are many Germans who now are having second thoughts on this migratory wave. According to public opinion polls, the massive popularity of Angela Merkel is on the wane, after her position with regards to the Greek crisis had put her popularity sky-high with the ordinary Germans.

Germany does not have the xenophobic fringe that some other countries have – from Hungary to Finland to Denmark etc. Nevertheless, the resentment at the sudden influx of migrants is beginning to darken the German countryside. Crimes against migrants are on the increase and every incident involving the migrants is given sudden prominence.

The repeated European Councils have become mere talkshows with no substantial agreement on sharing the migrant burden except for a very limited number of migrants and with some countries raising conditions that should be unacceptable in undiplomatic parlance.

In a Europe that has not yet found its feet after a launch of the single currency that with hindsight should have been better, after the huge 2008 crisis and then the Greek crisis, in a Europe in other terms that has not yet recuperated from illness, this migrant influx has become a very tough nut to crack.

That is Europe: it lurches on, and it moves ahead more because of crises than in a linear, ordered, way. Yet, it moves on. The nay-sayers had said that Greece would exit from the euro, that the euro was doomed, that the EU would split up. None of this has happened, so far. Maybe there will be more crises along the line, but a Europe that came together to remove the danger of more fighting on the continent, is surely stronger than it appears or made out to be.

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